We know, it’s freaking freezing out there. All you can do is huddle up with a mug of hot chocolate, post #TBTs to last summer, and plan your next hot weather vacation. Here’s a thought: Cabo. The city, located where the desert meets the sea, has much more to offer than the tequila-fueled spring break destination of Laguna Beach lore.
For starters, Los Cabos (comprised of the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo) boasts an average of 320 sunny days a year. Located at the southern end of the Baja California Peninsula, its unique geography and climate make Cabo more than just an ideal vacation destination: it’s home to one of the richest marine regions in the world, as well as a wide variety of organic farms.
In the wake of 2014’s Hurricane Odile, Cabo has undergone some serious rebuilding, resulting in an influx of new restaurants that pay homage to the region’s culture while giving fresh voice to local chefs. Mexican flavors joined with California commitment to fresh, high-quality ingredients mean better-than-usual beach town fare with a modern twist.
The Sea of Cortez, which Jacques Cousteau called “the world’s aquarium” is one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water on the planet. The seafood on the island is not to be missed. For incredibly fresh sushi caught daily, try island staple Nick-San. Owner Angel Carbajal, who began his career working at a dive shop, peppers the menu with clean, bright Mexican flavors like Serrano chili, crunchy jicama, and juicy mango. One of their bestselling dishes is the tuna tostada (melt-in-your-mouth yellowfin tuna belly served on a rice cracker with buttery avocado, habanero-infused red onion and sesame seeds).
For a local favorite, head to Los Claros for tacos filled with specialty ingredients like smoked marlin or octopus.
If you have time for a longer sit-down, order the whole, skin-on grilled fish at family-run Milo’s Seafood.
If you’ve come to Cabo for a shot of Vitamina T (think tacos, tostadas, tortas, tamales and more), you won’t have to look far for your Mexican food fix. Chef Edith Jiminez has been a Baja fixture since her arrival in the late 1970s, where she began work as a waitress at the restaurant she now owns, renamed Edith’s. A beautiful outdoor setting and great selection of regional wines complement traditional meat and seafood dishes. Touristy tableside preparation comes with the territory.
A newer option is Tenangos, a pricey but authentic restaurant where dishes from various regions of Mexico -- like chile en nogada (whole pepper stuffed with sautéed beef and topped with a creamy walnut sauce) and mole poblano -- come served on traditional Mexican pottery. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the guacamole scattered with salty chapulines (grasshoppers).
For breakfast with a view, check out the year-old Nido. The nest-shaped restaurant is the crown jewel of Mar Adentro, a breathtaking hotel complex. From inside the natural, open-air structure, you’ll look out on a tranquil network of infinity pools while enjoying classics like chilaquiles and eggs served over corn sopes with salsa verde.
Farm to Table
On first glance, the arid landscape of Los Cabos doesn’t seem particularly suited for agriculture, but farmers have been planting organic produce in the region since the late 1970s. The area’s low humidity and lack of vegetation makes for fewer diseases and insects, creating a prime microclimate for organic farming, according to Enrique Silva, owner of Huerta Los Tamarindos, a farm and restaurant in San Jose del Cabo. Silva’s background as an agricultural engineer has made for an interesting career trajectory – in addition to running a restaurant on his farm, he plants plots for local chefs and installs and maintains organic herb gardens in neighboring restaurants and hotels. If you have time, try a cooking class, which includes a tour of the farm accompanied by a refreshing lemongrass-infused welcome drink. Shop the organic market to practice your newfound skills.
While Tamarindos was one of the first area restaurants to practice true farm-to-table cooking, the trend is growing quickly. Flora Farm, an off-the-beaten-path plot run by a pair of expats, boasts 10 acres of organic farmland as well as a restaurant and market that have made it a popular destination for tourists, with prices to match. Chicken, eggs, pork and beef raised humanely on the property are a highlight.
Another nearby restaurant, Acre, is also located on a swath of organic farmland and uses local ingredients in its global menu. Pair your meal with a creative cocktail or wine from the Guadalupe Valley region, and you’ve got the fancy farm thing down pat.
Before you go, don’t forget to take home a bottle of Baja-produced wine, tequila or mezcal. El Wine Shop has a nice variety of local wines from the Guadalupe Valley.
Cover photo credit Los Cabos Tourism Board
Lifelong New Yorker currently eating my way through Mexico City and its surrounding regions. Persian home cook, experimental baker, exploratory vegetarian.